House of the Dragon E5 picks up the pace ever so slightly as the sides are made clear for the conflict to come. The cracks in the realm grow larger than ever as King Viserys struggles to hold everything together, his health greatly declining as those around him plan for the succession and look for ways to seize power for themselves. The great players all come together for the celebration of the wedding of Rhaenyra and Laenor Velaryon and as Game of Thrones fans know, weddings aren’t exactly the safest places to be.
House of the Dragon E5 opens and closes with violence and blood. Daemon handles his beating from last week as well as we all expected and greets his estranged wife in the Vale. An ‘accident’ involving her horse, a large rock, and her skull means the Rogue Prince is free to attend the celebration for his niece Rhaenyra as a single man, his intentions clear as he watches her dance with her soon to be husband. Rhaenyra and Laenor seem happy enough with the arranged marriage. They both agree to marry and then look the other way as they each pursue their own interests: Laenor with his lover Joffrey Lonmouth (unfortunate name), and Rhaenyra with Criston Cole – although the honourable knight feels disgusted at the thought of being the heir’s whore, something that drives him closer to the increasingly scheming Queen Alicent. The Queen even interrupts the king’s speech in front of all his esteemed guests, drawing gasps from the crowd as she enters the room dressed all in green, something that will become very important later on in the series…
The series so far has spent most of its time setting up the stakes, building the characters, and letting its audience know why it should care. Everyone knows what is coming and with each episode the tension has grown as we wait for that wildfire like explosion that sets everything off. House of the Dragon E5 isn’t that episode but we’re as close as we can get. Viserys’ illness worsens, coughing and collapsing throughout the episode. His illness worsens as the tension builds and the realms decides whether to support Rhaenyra as his heir or the young Aegon, Viserys’ and Alicent’s firstborn son. There is a lot of talking in the episode but it all feels purposeful, all leading somewhere. Being inspired, however loosely on historical events, gives the scheming and backstabbing a grounding and realism that makes House of the Dragon the fantasy show of choice for casual viewers. The incoherent nature of the final two series of Game of Thrones feel like a distant memory as House of the Dragon returns to a simple story filled with interesting characters forced to pick a side in a conflict. It’s simple and effective.
Slow but purposeful. House of the Dragon E5 is a dialogue heavy episode bookended by two moments of brutality. The characters are all in place and Westeros is about to burn. One of the greatest conflicts in the history of Westeros is about to kick off and it is going to be spectacular. The reign of King Viserys is almost at an end. Who will take his place upon the Iron Throne?